It took two late goals to do it, but the No. 1 Stanford women’s soccer team took down its local rival, No. 13 Santa Clara, 2-0 at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium on Sunday. The match was highly physical, but the Cardinal (9-0-2) broke through against the Broncos (7-3-2) with a record-tying goal from senior forward Christen Press and a free kick by junior forward Lindsay Taylor, both of which came in the last 15 minutes.
Stanford dominated possession in the early stages, as Santa Clara seemed content to sit back and park the bus in front of its box. Press had the first attempt of the match, curling a shot just over the bar from the left side of the box in the fourth minute. The Cardinal fashioned another chance in the ninth minute, when Taylor served a cross in for fellow junior Cami Levin to head the ball goalward, but the angle was tight and SCU keeper Bianca Henninger made the save.
Stanford’s next good chance would come 15 minutes later when Press got in front of her marker on a cross into the penalty area, but the senior could only redirect the ball right at Henninger. The Cardinal continued to apply the pressure for the rest of the half, but largely settled for long-range shots. In the end, although Stanford outshot Santa Clara 12-0 in the first half (with six of those 12 coming from Press), the score remained knotted at zero.
Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe, while not surprised with Santa Clara’s conservative approach, gave credit to its staunch defense in the opening minutes.
“Basically they sat in and made it hard for us to score,” Ratcliffe said. “And yeah, you give them credit for that. And I give their goalkeeper credit. (She) made some fantastic one-on-one saves, point-blank saves. So yeah, I give them credit.”
The Santa Clara defense was bolstered with tough physical play to which the Cardinal responded throughout the game. At the end of 90 minutes, the match had seen a total of 16 fouls.
“I thought we responded fine,” Ratcliffe said of the Broncos physicality. “I mean, they’re just trying to throw us off our game and throw us off our rhythm and it wasn’t a huge issue for me. I thought we played hard and it didn’t rattle us at all.”
The second half saw more Stanford domination, starting with Levin winning a free kick just outside of the box on the right in the 49th minute. Junior midfielder Teresa Noyola’s free kick was headed out, but fellow midfielder Allison McCann, a senior, served the ball right back into the box, and Press was just inches away from getting the vital touch.
Stanford again nearly broke through in the 55th minute. Substitute Marjani Hing-Glover, a sophomore forward, got to the endline on the right before crossing to the middle. Press was waiting in the box, only to see her close-range effort once again stopped by Henninger. Sophomore fullback Rachel Quon’s header hit the crossbar a minute later.
The Cardinal continued to push forward, with both Press and Taylor finding good opportunities, but neither could find the back of the net.
Yet the all-important goal arrived with just over 12 minutes remaining in the match. Quon sent in a pinpoint cross from the left, and Press powered a header past Henninger to set off a dog pile celebration. The strike not only gave the Card the lead, but gave the senior her 59th career goal, tying Sarah Rafinelli’s Stanford career record.
It had taken nearly 80 minutes for the first goal to arrive, but the second one came just a minute later. Taylor drew a foul about 25 yards out, and stepped up to take the free kick herself. The junior bent her kick low around the wall, and although Henninger got a hand on it, she could not keep it out of the net. Just like that, it was 2-0, and that was all Stanford would need.
“I think we just had more tenacity and just wanting to get the goal,” Taylor said. “We knew we didn’t have as much time left, we didn’t have a full game ahead of us and that we knew we wanted to come out on top and that we just had to put a goal away.”
The win over Santa Clara marks the close of an undefeated non-conference season for the Cardinal. With Pac-10 play starting next week, Ratcliffe hopes that the tough match against the Broncos will serve as a lesson for the team going forward.
“We need to complete a whole game,” Ratcliffe said. “Against the University of Portland [on Sept. 25], I thought we played half a game. Today, we played a complete game, which is important, and [the players] showed mental toughness and perseverance to get the result.”
Stanford will now hit the road to take on USC on Friday at 7 p.m. On Sunday, the team will face UCLA.